Oktober in November
Ooooh, did you notice the k in October (or rather Oktober)? That was intentional. But why you ask? - because I am very clever and because the Entertaining Tidbit of Life in Kurdistan I wish to offer you is no less than this year's Oktoberfest. Or what might be more accurately called, Oktoberfest à la Kurd.
Oktoberfest à la Kurd. Seriously? Indeed. Not only is Oktoberfest celebrated in Kurdistan but it is celebrated at our very own German biergarten (Yeah! - we have a beer garden! Booo! - it serves the most expensive beer on the planet!), the Deutscher Hof. In our neighbourhood of Ainkawa, the Deutscher Hof is a bit of an institution because of its convivial outdoor venue (safely hidden behind high concrete walls) and the draught always on tap - thanks to Austrian Airways, which regularly flies in kegs and kegs of beer at presumably extortionate rates, if the biergarten's equally extortionate prices are any indication (and is wont to hang its paraphernalia up everywhere in an effort to help us forget what an expensive airline it is).
But I digress.
Yes, for one extended weekend this October, stein after stein after stein of arguably the most expensive beer on the planet (15,000 dinar - or $13 per litre. To put it in perspective, I can buy a litre of Crown Royal rye whiskey for $15 here) was served to a raucous crowd hellbent on getting drunk (this is, after all, Erbil and there's little else to do here). So really, it was no different than any other night in town. Apart from the fact that it was more surreal than usual.
Surreal you ask? - I mean, apart from the fact that we were celebrating Oktoberfest in Iraq? When the temperature was still in the mid-40's Celsius? You'd think that would've been enough.
Did I not mention the Ethiopian waitresses decked out in dirndls? No? It would seem that these waif-like creatures were expected to navigate their way through the garden's raucous crowd (hellbent on getting drunk) bearing massive trays of equally massive litre-size glass steins. Needless to say, they didn't - or rather, they couldn't. Beer was trotted out one, or if you were lucky, two at a time. Did I not mention that these dirndl-clad Ethiopians were not only expected to make change (silly that), but also to change beer kegs (even sillier still)? Did I not mention that Mr. This Cat's (Not Abroad) was pressed into switching kegs when it became apparent that he wasn't going to get a beer until someone - namely His Royal Nibs - did?
No? What about the Oom-pa-pa band? Did I not mention the Oom-pa-pa band comprised of locals - all wearing lederhosen of course - led by a gentleman named Ramadan? Did I not mention that said Oom-pa-pa band only knew two songs which, over the course of
Where o where was Walter Ostanek? How can one even entertain the idea of having an Oktoberfest without the Grammy-award winning accordionist with the jack-o-lantern smile? And must the local staff wear dirndls and lederhosen? Weren't they embarrassed enough having to wear German national football team jerseys and Dr. Seuss-like hats during this summer's World Cup when they were all clearly cheering for Spain and Argentina? And whose bright idea was it to serve waterpipes through the Bavarian Blowout? In between rounds of "Ein prosit, ein prosit, gemütlichkeit ..." (sung by the Germans in the garden) you could hear the blub-blub-blub of waterpipes being drawn upon. For the love of God: the smoke wafting through the night sky was licorice-scented! That just isn't done during Oktoberfest.
And there were no goddamned pretzels! It's not that I didn't want to pay $50 for their German buffet (I didn't actually) - I just wanted a lousy pretzel.
Let me be clear. It's not that I was unappreciative of our host Guenther's efforts to bring a little gemütlichkeit to Iraq, because I was. I really did have a barrel of fun. The dirndls and lederhosen made me chortle not a little bit - so a big danke for that - and the massive litre-size glass steins of the most expensive beer on the planet did somehow lend a hand in dredging up lyrics to what I thought were long-forgotten Oktoberfest songs, which I sang for the enjoyment of all at the top of my lungs. In fact, I may have just out-Germaned the Germans. Did I mention that I can't sing? Well neither could they.
But if I could make one wee suggestion regarding next year's festivities - I mean, apart from securing the services of Mr. Ostanek and his accordion and getting in some pretzels (and Mr. This Cat would like to request that Austrian Airlines fly in a real Oktoberfest beer next time) and lowering the price of pretty much everything ... perhaps Guenther might be prevailed upon to offer weight training classes for his Ethiopian beer wenches with an eye on upper arm exercises. Maybe a flat weight-training bench could be installed on top of the roof where all the empty beer kegs are stored. Not only will it whip their biceps and triceps into shape for hauling those massive litre-size glass steins next Oktoberfest (a great skill to have when they return to Addis Ababa), but it'll also give them something to do when they're not learning how to change a beer keg.
Just a thought.